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Ask the Profussor – Tying Up Loose Ends

December 29, 2010

It’s the last Ask the Profussor of the year!  Sure, one of you may ask a question in the next few days, but I’m going to feel great about starting the year with a clean blog slate.

There are a few serious posts that are waiting in the wings.  But this isn’t the week for such heavy matters.  This is a week for introspection.  It’s about looking forward and looking back.  It’s about getting ready for one last party and putting the champagne (or some other sparkling wine) on ice.

Maybe you’ll even host a dinner.  Maybe you’ll go out on the town.  Me?  I’m on the farm, hopefully having a traditional dinner of pork and sauerkraut.  Maybe I can convince my brother-in-law to play a few games of Pente while we wait for the clock to strike midnight.  In the unlikely event Mrs. Fussy stays up past ten o’clock, perhaps we’ll all play cards.

But since I make it a habit to answer all reader questions, and since I’ve had a few stack up since my last Ask the Profussor on December 9, today is the day to check them off my list.  There are still a couple other things I need to do before closing out the year, so without any further ado, onto the questions.

Raf had a question about my desire for a better coffee maker:
Will you use that special coffee maker to brew your chock full o nuts?

No.

Raf knows me all too well.  I wrote a post a while back entitled Coffee Confession Number One with the intention of getting around to confession number two.  My full confession will have to come in the New Year.  It’s a long story, but I’ll try to make it short.

Mrs. Fussy doesn’t require fancy coffee.  Like some of the British attitude toward tea, she mostly cares that it’s hot, wet and caffeinated.  She has put together her own proprietary blend of Chock Full o’Nuts and Eight O’Clock.

Mrs. Fussy wakes up before I do, and she drinks more morning coffee.  My choice is that I can drink her coffee and have a cup of it delivered to my bedside (most mornings), OR have to make my own first cup while dealing with the chaos of a morning routine that involves two small children.

To me the choice is simple.  And then I am free to make better coffee later in the day that I’ll have the ability to truly enjoy in peace and quiet.

Vanessa Gabor who gets bonus points for using her full name asks:
Where do you find these fine fish sticks in the area?

I picked mine up in the Slingerlands Price Chopper.  They are in the freezer on the far back wall, between the meat and the dairy case.

Bob W. is testing if my encyclopedic knowledge extends to kids’ fiction:
I assume the “Yummy/Yucky” book is by the same author as “Quiet/Loud”? If so, I will have to hie myself to the bookstore for a copy, as “Quiet/Loud” is a huge hit in our house.

Both books, along with a host of others, are written by the lovely and talented Leslie Patricelli.  Our household could probably benefit from a little more reinforcement of quiet versus loud.  But what exactly is a bookstore?  And why would one go there?

Ellen Whitby was puzzled when I took the long view:
You’re a little far off to be making plans about grandchildren, no?

I’m not picking out names for them, or opening up college funds for them, but I do believe it makes sense to think about our actions on a larger scale than the immediate future.  Somehow this notion of looking out for future generations got lost in the immediacy of the late 20th century.  I’m not pointing fingers.  But no, I don’t think it’s too early to be thinking about my grandchildren.

Mr. Sunshine wanted me to check my facts when it came to falafel chips:
Don’t they contain at least a smidgen of chick pea flour to justify the name?

Well, the first ingredient is corn, and corn is clearly dominant.  The second ingredient is a little non-specific.  It reads, “One or more of the following organic non-GMO whole beans (chickpeas, fava beans, black beans).”  Presumably chickpeas are always present, but it’s impossible to tell based on the way the ingredients are listed.

I’ve added emphasis to Mr. Dave’s rant to show how he proves my point:
Beer? Ordinary? Hold your tongue. Maybe in your conception of food culture, not mine. I was not raised in a wine culture (and neither were 95% of Americans no matter how hard they try to pretend that they where as adults). Beer is an everyday beverage for me, just as important as bread or meat.
Would you call good bread ordinary? Is a good steak ordinary?…But you are right, I would probably prefer a bottle of spirits.

We do live in a beer culture.  Beer is an everyday beverage and to some it’s even an every day beverage.  To me, that makes it ordinary.

That said, I do appreciate his point that great bread and a great steak (but not merely good) are extraordinary.  But just as Mr. Dave would rather get a gift of booze than beer, in general pastry is more special than bread, and caviar is more special than steak.

Maltnsmoke is no fan of the George Dickel No. 12 and it left him pondering this:
However, I am left wondering whether the FLB has actually tried the GD #12 or is merely relying on the recommendations of F. Paul Pacult et al… (whoops no ?s)

I recently went looking for it, and could only come up with George Dickel No. 8.  So, no I have not tried it myself, and this recommendation was based purely on the multiple blind tastings of a panel of experts.

If the high score is a mystery to you in light of the other strong whiskeys that are lower on the list, I should take a moment to remind you of one important fact.  Things taste different in broad tastings.

I’m reminded of the glass of Joseph Phelps Insignia I was poured at a wine tasting that was absolutely boring.  It was a beautiful wine, balanced and full of grace.  But the wines that really stood out that night were the ones that came out and grabbed you.  I had a similar experience the afternoon I tasted countless zinfandels at the ZAP festival.  

Surely the act of tasting dozens of whiskeys blindly changes the way they are perceived.  Maybe it would be fun one day to see what that’s like first hand.  You game?

Leah had a bone to pick with me about the Tour de Hot Dog:
I understand that the goal of the tours is for the locations to be within a reasonable driving distance of each other. However, it cannot be claimed a regional tour, toting the best of the region, without visiting Schenectady and Saratoga counties. May I suggest two day, all day or bracket tours in the future?… I’m just not buying completely into a Tour de Hot Dog that skipped Mike’s First Prize Hot Dogs on Erie Blvd in Schenectady.

Are you trying to kill me?  One of these days you’ll make it to a Tour de Something and you will see just how strenuous it is.  But there are two specific things I need to address.

First, regarding hot dogs.  As far as I am aware, Schenectady doesn’t have the specific and unique regional style of dog that the Tour de Hot Dog was evaluating.  My understanding is that Mike’s First Prize is all about full sized dogs.  Surely they are tasty and a point of pride in the Electric City.  But I didn’t skip them, they were disqualified.

The second thing is about brackets.  As you may have seen above in my answer to Ellen, I’m inclined to take the long view.  The Tour de Donut in 2010 was confined to the western side of the Hudson River.  This will not be the case in 2011.  There are some mighty fine orchards in driving distance east of the river, and these will be the focus next year.  2012 is still up in the air, but I’m not ruling out the possibility of a showdown between east and west.

I’m not sure this is a bracket per se, but I think it addresses your concerns.

Bob W. turned to me when he started to question his own taste:
And I am shocked — SHOCKED, I tell you! — about Gus’s. Perhaps my memories of the glory of Gus’s past has clouded my judgment?

Please don’t make Mr. Dave cry.  This exercise was not intended to sully the memories of anyone’s favorite hot dog joint.  Gus’s has a time and a place.  There are plenty of days that I just wouldn’t want to be sitting inside a hot dog stand.  But sitting out in the open air, with dozens of people enjoying the same savory morsels, is always going to make Gus’s mini-hot dogs taste good. If you have fond memories, or a deeper connection to the place, this will just be enhanced.

How we taste things isn’t just determined by the flavors and textures of the food.  Our pesky brains are always getting in the way.  It’s why food always tastes better on vacation.

The Tour de Hot Dog is an entirely unnatural way to eat.  It serves a valuable role, to be sure, but unless you plan to eat at three to five hot dog stands in a row, your mileage will probably vary.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness had different experiences at area Chinese restaurants:
Emperor’s has bad dim sum? I go there often, and I’d say it’s some of the best you can get in the area. CCK — I went there once, and the dumplings were crunchy. Dumplings should NOT be crunchy. It was gross. I don’t even want to know what part of what animal was in there that shouldn’t have been. Never again. Shining Rainbow wasn’t bad, but it’s in a really sketchy area, which makes me not want to go there again. Tai Pan is the best outside of Albany I’ve had, but their dim sum menu can be confusing. Ala Shanghai was very inconsistent. The soup dumplings were delicious, but the ma goo gai pan was disgusting (seriously, canned mushrooms???) — and I’ve had it cooked authentically, so I know what it’s supposed to taste like.

This is long, so I’ll start at the top.  You can see for yourself the nasty shrimp dumplings they served me at Emperor’s.  The egg custards may not look bad, but they were hyped up as being a weekend only offering.  That made me think there was a hope that they would be soft and custardy, with a good flaky crust.  I didn’t eat the egg tarts because they weren’t worth the calories, and I stopped eating the shrimp dumplings because I didn’t think they were safe to consume.

Just like there is an occasional hard bit in a hot dog or a hamburger, the same goes for dumplings.  Sometimes a piece of tendon or cartilage gets thrown into the mix.  Not knowing what you had at CCK, I can’t really speak to it.  But I am surprised about your safety concerns regarding Shining Rainbow since it’s just about a block away from CCK.

Ala Shanghai has a great big menu.  I don’t expect them all to be winners.  But the winners are so full of win that it elevates this place up to one of the best in the area.

KB @ Home-Baked Happiness seems upset that some things aren’t meant to be hot:
That’s… bizarre. So basically, the Honey-Baked ham, that beautiful dinner-table centerpiece, is only supposed to be used as lunchmeat? ‘Cause honestly, the idea of a big, fancy holiday dinner with a tepid ham is just freakin’ weird. I can’t imagine it. Dinner meats are supposed to be hot, case closed.

No. Honey-Baked ham, that beautiful dinner-table centerpiece, is supposed to be used as dinner.  If you cannot abide by a room temperature dinner, than I regret to inform you that you should avoid this delightful meat candy.  But to me this sounds more like a problem of imagination than anything else.  Perhaps you give it a try before rejecting it outright?

I think llcwine asked me this question last year too:
Have you tried Gruet from New Mexico? I love it, so yeasty and toasty…and the rose looks really sexy in a flute…for sure!!!!

Speaking of giving it a try before rejecting it outright, last year I did get a bottle of this, as I chose to bring in 2010 with some unusual sparkling wines.  A New Mexican sparkler definitely qualified.  I wasn’t taking tasting notes, but it wasn’t really up my alley.  I’m pretty sure we had the brut, but perhaps the blanc de noir would have been a better bet.

D0N wrote in to tell the story of his apparent food poisoning:
I don’t know what the heck they fed me at 5 guys that night (maybe it was the peanut oil they fry everything in?), but I sure as heck won’t ever – ever – ever eat at another one of their restaurants.

I don’t know either, but I’m guessing it wasn’t the peanut oil. E. coli O157:H7 is everywhere these days and it is just as likely to be on your tomatoes and lettuce as it is in your beef.  Thankfully you are okay.  But the unfortunate reality of our current food system is that this kind of thing just happens.  Most likely the place where you ate the contaminated food wasn’t to blame for the contamination.  Likely it happened further upstream.  But I certainly understand how you could be reluctant to return, even if it was an isolated incident.

Third Auntie wanted to close the loop on my very Jewish Christmas:
So where did you go for dinner in the end?

In the end we went to the Golden Wok in State College, PA.  Turns out we made it down to Pennsylvania for Christmas after all

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2010 2:56 pm

    I hope you realize that many of my rants are really about me indulging a penchant for spicy inter-blogger banter, offense is rarely intended.

  2. December 30, 2010 8:51 pm

    re: The food poisoning. There’s been a lot of it going around…or rather, a lot of people misdiagnosing themselves with food poisoning when, in fact, they have the nasty gastro-intestinal virus that’s been spreading throughout the northeast (as I detailed over on my TU blog last week).

  3. maltnsmoke permalink
    February 9, 2011 2:38 am

    Hey FLB, thanks for the response to my observations on the GD #12.

    So, things taste different in broad tastings. Certainly, it would be fun one day to see what that’s like first hand. Ah yeah, I’m game.

    Sincerely,

    Malt N Smoke

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